The Parthenon in Athens, Greece is the icon of the city. I can remember wanting to visit since elementary school when we had the “Greek Games” at school. And yes it was a long time ago, but that is where my fascination with Greek mythology and civilization began. It also is the most visited attraction in Athens so here’s Your Survival Guide to the Parthenon in Athens.
A Brief History of the Parthenon in Athens
The Parthenon in Athens is a temple built to the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, the patron goddess after which the city is named. It sits high on the Acropolis, the name of the hill overlooking Athens. It was built between 447-438 B.C.
It is a Doric style construction. (Corinthian and Ionic are the other styles the Greeks made famous.)
The building stood undamaged for hundreds of years. It was used as a church and then a mosque in later times. Much of the damage currently being restored (more on the restoration below) was caused in a 1687 battle with the Venetians. The Parthenon was attacked from below.
There is also a temple to the goddess Nike, an ancient theater on the site (at the bottom of the hill) that is still used for classical concerts and ballet.
Planning your Visit
For the foreseeable future, at least the next couple of years, the Parthenon in Athens is undergoing extensive restoration works. The restoration works started in 1975. Originally the plan of works was 10 years, but as work started, it quickly revealed the Parthenon is more complex than it looks. Each individual piece is unique; perfectly formed for the site and structure. While the columns look straight, that is because many of them are actually curved to appear straight.
Depending on the time of year, it can be quite hot. There is no shade and the site itself is quite hilly, including the fact the Parthenon is on the top of a hill so you will have to walk uphill to to see it. Take water, wear sunscreen and bring a hat.
PLANNING AN UPCOMING
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The site is open in the summer from 8am – 7 pm. If you can, go early or go late, the buses with tour groups begin arriving about 9:30- 10:00 a.m. This adds to the madness of the crowds! In the winter the site closes around sunset.
If you can stay near the Parthenon, you will be able to walk over in the morning or late afternoon and avoid the tour groups. Do you need to go on a tour? Okay, if you are a regular reader you know we tend to be independent travelers. Honestly, there is little reason to go on a guided tour of the Parthenon. It is well signed, or you can take a self-guided audio tour in a number of languages which will tell you all about the site. You can download an audio tour in advance of you visit. Rick Steves also has one and several other audio tours of Athens near the Parthenon.
Going on your own offers you the chance to go at your own pace and you can move around the site with more flexibility to avoid the large tour groups. If you are patient and time it right, you can still obtain some pictures without the large numbers of people in them. (The site is huge.)
You must buy a ticket to enter the site. When we arrived in the morning there was not a large line for tickets, but there was a large line to enter the site (this is a separate line) as all of the tour groups line up in the exact same line. (Unfortunately we arrived just as the first of the tour groups arrived!)
The site is quite large and depending on the size of the crowds and your pace, allow several hours.
The closest subway stop to the Parthenon is the Metro Line 2, stop “Akropoli”.
Other Things to Do Near the Parthenon in Athens
Other sites within walking distance to the Parthenon include:
- The Plaka & Monastiraki areas- an old part of Athens. The area is car-less. It has a number of shops, restaurants and churches. You can obtain a walking map of the area from your hotel or visitor information center.
- The New Acropolis Museum is located at the bottom of the hill. It is open 8am- 8 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Combine this with your morning visit to the Parthenon and you will have a great day exploring the sites of Athens. For more things to do Athens check our guide to the best things to see and do in Athens.
If you are coming in from a cruise and need transport to the Parthenon or want a driver in Athens or the day try George’s Taxi. His service is professional, reliable, affordable and very well rated.
Can’t make it to Greece? If you are traveling in the USA, there is a full-scale reproduction of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee. It was built as part of the 1897, Tennessee Centennial Exposition.